Suspension of MPs – UPSC GS2

Context: 12 Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended for unruly behavior in the House.

Rules for maintaining decorum of house:

Rules which are to be followed in house:
  • To not interrupt the speech of others.
  • Maintain silence and not obstruct proceedings by hissing or making running commentaries during debates.
  • Not to shout slogans, display placards, tear up documents in protest, and play a cassette or a tape recorder in the House.
Powers of Presiding Officer:
  • The Presiding officer can suspend any MP for disorderly conduct. The MP then has to remain absent from the proceedings of the House for the remainder of the day.
  • In case of “persistently and wilfully obstructing the business” of the House, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moves a motion for suspending the offending MP from the service of the House. The suspension can last until the end of the session.
  • A new rule, 374A, has been added in 2001, which empowers Speaker to automatically suspend an MP for a maximum of five days for disrupting the business of the House. In 2015, the Speaker used this rule for suspending 25 MPs.

Procedure in Rajya Sabha

It’s largely similar, with one important difference.
  • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
  • Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member. The House may, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
  • The Chairman may “name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business.
  • In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.

Is suspending an MP a decent practice?

  • It is a strong action, but it is not uncommon. In general, a balance has to be struck.
  • There can be no question that the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Presiding Officer is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings.
  • However, it must be remembered that the job of the Presiding Officer is to run the House, not to lord over it.

Alternatives to suspension

  • The solution to unruly behavior has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values.
  • A previous Speaker had ordered that television cameras be focused on the demonstrating members so that people could see for themselves how their representatives were behaving in the House.

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